More Law School Non-Reform

, The Am Law Daily

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Deans are looking everywhere for the causes of the lawyer bubble—except in the mirror.

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What's being said

  • legaltruth

    I actually disagree entirely with the author on this one. Law Firms are under serious pressure right now to cut expenses and alter fee structures by their corporate clients. Alternative Fee Agreements, such as fixed fees, are becoming more common. Further, corporate clients are refusing to pay for associates to do legal work. With the advent of Firms like Clearspire and Axiom that focus on efficiency rather than billable hours, traditional law firms need to find a way to significantly cut overhead to remain competitive while also maintaining enough capital to retain their partners. Without a program like the residency one suggested Law Firms will eventually convert to Fixed Fees and stop hiring associates altogether. They will just engage in lateral hiring and outsource much of the administrative processing to India, through such programs like Pangea3. If they don't their corporate clients will just subdivide the work and do it for them.

    The residency program isn't just a suggestion it one of the only reasonable and proven solutions. Keeping law schools at three years and high tuition rates restricts the supply of lawyers from what it would be if they reduced the number of years and debt required for a legal education. Further, allowing a deferment of the debt during the residency program will allow lawyers to reduce their initial salary requirements. To aid the law firms in following this model NALP or a private company could replicate the Match program that happens within the medical community. I could even imagine the company that runs The Match in the medical community just broadening their services to include law firm matching.

    Lowering tuition rates at law schools isn't a solution at all, it will just supply more lawyers into the market place with a still significant level of debt and few occupations that actually require that type of education. It will remain to be a terrible investment decision by the law students. They could have just skipped law school altogether and pursued the employment opportunities that they are now settling for.

    The residency program makes even more sense with the advent of the liberalization of law firm ownership in the UK which will eventually increase demand for lawyers from the US as the law firms continue to seek growth opportunities outside of the UK. They will come to the US and want to practice in the states. They will not however want to pay what the law students are requiring, these firms will be focused on cutting their overhead expenditures. If we don't come up with a way to reduce what law schools graduates require for initial salary requirements then the foreign firms may just pursue alternative ways of producing lawyers who understand the US legal system, such as international schools or programs at their law schools in England. This is one of the only methods of making the law school graduates attractive investments into the future.

    Before any of you decide to dismiss this idea I will reveal that I am a Stanford Alum who obtained a degree in Economics and have worked at a law firm for several years now. I think that gives me a bit more credibility to discuss market forces and forecast what will likely occur in the legal industry.

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